Seville, It´s Just Like the U.S.

When I come back, I´m sure I´m going to get a reoccurring question of “how was it?” While there are numerous differences between life in Seville and life in the Bay Area, several things remain the same.

Upon visiting Seville and other European cities, there are always certain shops and restaurants that you can be sure to find – American ones. Many clothing shops and cosmetic shops from the U.S. are present in the center of the city. H&M, Sephora, Bath and Body Works and Lush are just a few. While the stores for shopping are in the mid-range for price, the restaurants are all fast food and coffee shops. Among them are McDonalds, Burger King, Domino´s Pizza, Dunkin´ Coffee (not donuts) and Starbucks.

Many Americans who come to Seville either for tourism or for studies often fall back on the comforts of these American brands. While it´s nice to have comforts from home so close within grasp, it´s also not truly embracing the culture of the place you are in to return to what you know. Therefore every time I travel I set myself a challenge – to not eat or buy any American products. The first time I set this challenge was over the summer when I traveled to Australia and New Zealand. When I travel I would rather eat the fast food of the international country than to eat what I can get back home. There´s a reason for traveling – to embrace and immerse yourself in a new world, to open your eyes to something completely new. Since being in Spain, I have met my challenge. Several times I entered American places but never did I buy something: once with my friend Brooke to use the internet and to hang out for a little, another time with my mom when she visited because she was craving a big latte. It is always a test for me – whether I can resist and have enough willpower.

Instead of having a chai latte from Starbucks, I´ve had to find other substitutes. A café called Café de Indias, which is the Spanish version of Starbucks, has chai lattes. Given they aren´t nearly the same as Starbucks´ they are a warm milky tea with cinnamon flavor and a warmth that fills your heart. At the airport in Washington Dulles I´m looking forward to finding a Starbucks and buying a welcome-home chai latte.

Not only are there American stores and restaurant chains, but there are also random disruptions to your day. One night Loli, Crysta and I were sitting at the dinner table having just finished our first course of soup and ready to move onto the second course. As usual the TV was on and we were watching Loli´s favorite telenovela Arrayán. All of a sudden the TV and lights shut off. Previously the lights had shut off because we were using too much power but within a minute they came back. This time Loli went over to the circuit breaker and played with some buttons. Nothing happened. Immediately Loli went out to the street to see if other people were having the same problem. Our entire street was out of electricity. A power outage in Spain. Who could ever imagine? Crysta and I found our flashlights upstairs that we brought in case of an emergency such as this and Loli lit a candle that a previous student had given her as a gift. We finished our dinner by candlelight and in good conversation. Instead of listening to the TV we chatted about past experiences with power outages. Once we were done eating, Loli said that she didn´t know what she was going to do since usually she watched TV after we go upstairs to get ready for bed. Since there was no TV to watch and she couldn´t read because she would fall asleep, she talked and talked and talked. I absolutely love Loli but one thing I learned about her fast is that she´s a habladora, a talker, and she knows it. Eventually it was bedtime for me so I got ready for bed by flashlight.

Having a power outage was a fun experience in Spain. It´s such a family experience to me. In the States when I was younger during power outages, my mom, brother and I would all collect in one room and have flashlights and candles there together. Power outages are one of those things that you don´t necessarily identify with one culture because any country can run out of power. Nonetheless I never thought I would experience a power outage in Spain – just one of the many surprises that Spain has held in store.

Seville, it´s just like the U.S. They have Sephora, Starbucks and power outages!

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Final Explorations in Spain

Even in the final weeks of being in Spain, I am making the most of being able to explore such great areas of the country. The day trips to La Rábida and Málaga held very different things in store for me.

The Saturday that we visited La Rábida was in the middle of a streak of rainy days. La Rábida was advertised as a beach trip so therefore the morning of the trip, many people did not show up because they knew it would not be a day appropriate for the beach. Just because it’s rainy doesn’t mean you can’t explore the historical and cultural things that a new town has to offer. And that’s exactly what we did.

First we visited the monastery in La Rábida, significant as a place where Christopher Columbus stopped on his journey discovering the Americas. The monastery had many model of ships that Columbus sailed as well as official documents. One room that struck me the most held flags of all of the places that Columbus discovered ranging from San Salvador to Spain to the United States and beneath the flags were boxes filled with dirt from that country. It’s a very neat concept to collect part of the land to always be associated with Columbus. The colors of the soil were much different than what I had expected. When you think of dirt, you think brown but there were so many different shades of brown.

After La Rábida we went to Las Tres Carabelas which has replicas of the three ships that Christopher Columbus sailed – La Pinta, La Niña and La Santa Maria. Being on the ships made me realize how close of quarters the sailors had and the fact that they had all of their food and water for the journey on the ship was quite astonishing. On August 3, 1492, Columbus sailed from a neighboring port Palos de la Frontera. They arrived at the Bahamas followed by Cuba and La Española.

The visit to La Rábida and Las Tres Carabelas was a historically enriching experience. While it didn’t promise any beach time, I preferred to learn about the significance of this little town in Huelva to the discovery of the Americas.

The weekend after the historical visit to Huelva, I took advantage of my last weekend in Spain to explore Málaga. Málaga is located two hours and forty-five minutes from Seville by bus. Located on the southern coast of Spain, it is known as a beach town but also has many monuments with historical and cultural significance. My friends – Shannon, Laura and Sarah – and I made a day trip to Málaga on Saturday. Upon arriving we immediately recognized the beauty that Málaga has to offer. It’s a city but also has many green spaces such as parks and gardens. Like many other cities in Spain, Málaga boasts a gorgeous cathedral in the center of the city. Málaga is the home of the famous painter Pablo Picasso. Museo de Picasso has some amazing artistic wonders by Picasso. Anyone who approaches the paintings looks at them for a moment and then turns his head to the side as he contemplates the meaning behind the painting. Many times I had to look at the title of the work before being able to comprehend what was going on with the morphed geometrical shapes. In addition to seeing the mind-boggling paintings we visited the casa natal, or home where Picasso was born. On our way to the beach we passed the Alcazaba which is a Moorish castle built during the 11th century and the Roman Theater which sits underneath the Alcazaba.

At the beach we were all ready for an afternoon of relaxation. For several hours we absorbed the strong sunshine of Málaga. After only half an hour under the sun I couldn´t stand the strength of the heat anymore so I made for the freezing cold ocean. Just standing up helped so much but the cold water on my feet was a much more significant cool down. Then something you would never think happened. We were lying on the lawn taking little naps and listening to music when a starkly thin man wearing green swimsuit trunks walked past us asking for a cigarette or a lighter. I told him we didn´t have one. Once he left I looked behind us because I could feel someone watching us. There he was standing on the sidewalk staring at us. I thought it was just because we were American girls lying out at the beach. Several minutes later a young woman with short, bright blond hair came over to us asking, “Do you speak English?” We responded yes. She continued to tell us that the man standing on the sidewalk had just stolen my friend Shannon´s purse out of her bag. Since he realized that this woman saw what he had done, he began to run. The only word I can use to describe how we felt is shock. Immediately Shannon looked in her bag to confirm that her purse was not there. “How could that have happened?” was all that Shannon could respond. All of us froze, not knowing how to react or what to do. We wanted Shannon´s purse back but didn´t know how to go about getting it.

We decided to go in the direction that the thief went to see if we could somehow find him. Meanwhile Shannon called CC-CS in search of help and guidance. When diners at a nearby restaurant saw us in distress, they asked if someone had stolen our bag. He said that a man came running by with a purse and handed me a five euro bill that had fallen out of the bag. We asked for recommendations of what to do since none of us had ever had anything stolen in the U.S. let alone in a different country. The waiter told us where the nearest police station was so that we could submit a report in hopes of recovering the stolen purse and its contents. On our way to the police station Shannon cancelled her debit card and called her credit card company to put a hold on that account.

Upon arriving at the police station I entered a room with Shannon while Sarah and Laura waited outside. Shannon wrote down her personal details such as her name, address and phone number. I proceeded to tell the police officer what had happened with as many details as possible. Shannon recounted the articles that we stolen from the purse as well as the value of them – her wallet with credit cards and identification and her camera. After our visit to the police station Shannon said that she was shocked at how fast my Spanish was firing out of my mouth. I guess when I need to say something and need to use my Spanish in an urgent manner, it just works for me. It was definitely a new experience in Spain, one that I hope to never encounter again.

As we left the police station we took note of the time – 5:00 p.m. We planned on leaving the beach at 4:45 p.m. to get to the bus station on time for our 5:30 p.m. bus. Getting to the bus station in thirty minutes would be a time crunch especially since we were starting from a farther point and later than anticipated. Nonetheless we got our legs pumping as we sped walked to the bus station. At about 5:27 p.m. I looked at my watch and was not very hopeful of making our bus. We needed to get to the station, make sure the bus hadn´t left and buy Shannon a new bus ticket since her pre-bought one was stolen. The plan was that Sarah and Laura would go straight to the bus and delay the departure of the bus while Shannon and I would go buy a new bus ticket for her. After asking an information desk worker at the bus station, Shannon and I confirmed that our bus to Seville had already left and that there was another leaving at 6 p.m. In search of Sarah and Laura to tell them that we needed to change our tickets, a man working for ALSA bus company approached us asking if we were going to Seville. He showed us to the bus where Sarah and Laura were awaiting us. When Shannon explained her situation to the bus driver and told him that she needed to buy a new ticket from him, he merely signaled us to get onto the bus. As Shannon said, the moral of the events of the day is that there are still nice people in the world. She was almost in tears from the sincerity of the bus driver.

Exploring different cities always holds something different. Whether it´s learning more about Christopher Columbus and his ships than I could ever imagine or having to visit the police station for a stolen purse, each is different and offers new growth. Reflecting back I took the leader position in making sure that everything went smoothly after Shannon´s purse was stolen. I´m so thankful for the leadership opportunities in my past that have given me the initiative and courage to do so.

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Feria: a Festival of Drinking and Dancing

Feria is the second festival in Sevilla during the month of April. The first was Semana Santa which was a religious celebration marked by a somber atmosphere. Feria is quite the opposite.

Originally back in 1857, Feria was a livestock fair created by two men from Northern Spain. After years of transformation the week changed from being one of selling livestock to one of celebration, drinking and dancing which has its roots in the 1920s.

The Sunday night before Feria officially starts is called el noche del pescaito. On this night many people eat fried fish, or pescaito, in their casetas. Casetas are tents that are set up throughout the neighborhood of Los Remedios where Feria is held. A majority of the casetas is private and therefore you must have been invited to be able to enter; however, there are some that are public as well. The casetas are owned by families, clubs, businesses and political parties. Every caseta is different and in a way is a reflection of the economic status that someone pertains to. Some casetas are quite elegant and very homey whereas others are merely a sheltered place to gather and dance.

                  

At the start of Feria at midnight on Monday, el alumbrado which is the lighting of the door, or la portada, summons all sevillanos to enjoy the first night of the festival. During the day carriages and horses ride through the streets as sevillanos enjoy each others´company. At night the scene completely changes to revolving around drinking and dancing. Feria is known for its manzanilla, a white wine from Jerez, and rebujito, a mixture of manzanilla and 7-Up. Young people and old people alike stay out into the wee hours drinking, talking and dancing. The dance during Feria is called sevillano which is not easily learned as I can attest to. During the week of Feria everyone dresses in much more elegant wear. Men wear their finest suits and women dress in elaborate flamenco-style dresses.

                     

My experiences with Feria included the night of the alumbrado and the following night. For the alumbrado it was very reminiscent of a carnival blended with botellon, or the drinking nightlife culture of Sevilla. Almost everything in Spain happens a little later than it´s planned for. Therefore when it was about 12 a.m. my friends and I wondered if the lights on the portada were going to be lit right at midnight or if it was going to be on Spanish timing. Several minutes before midnight the atmosphere changed and people around us started getting quiet as they waited for the big moment that everyone was there.

The following night Sarah´s sevillano friend invited us to his family´s caseta. Since casetas are private and it can be difficult to enter one, we took this opportunity and ran with it. Juanme is a year or two younger than us and he was with about five of his friends standing outside the caseta when we arrived. All of his friends were very welcoming and wanted to include us in conversation and the culture of Feria. We went to another private caseta with them where several of them danced sevillano while Sarah and I watched. Even though I had no idea how they moved their bodies the way they did, I was so intrigued by the dance and the entire elaboration of the night in the dresses and music as well. Juanme´s friend tried to teach Sarah and I how to dance sevillano but because there are so many complex steps to the dance, it proved quite difficult after only the first step.

                

Feria is an amazing festival full of energy, life and happiness all around. As someone who has been in Sevilla for three months now, Feria was one of the only instances that I´ve recently felt like a tourist. Since everyone is dressed to their finest and I lacked a flamenco dress, I felt out of place. On the other hand, I don´t think I would have felt appropriate if I had worn a flamenco dress since it´s not part of my culture. Also I don´t know how to dance sevillano which is what a majority of the festival revolves around. For one night it was quite entertaining to watch the locals dance, interact and let themselves free during their week of vacation from all obligations. Immersing yourself in the local festivals helps you inch closer and closer to becoming comfortable with the culture that was previously foreign and scary to you.

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Seville Saludable

Food writing – two of my passions in one place. My digital storytelling class combines these two passions in a different form of writing. In the past I’ve written about food for articles for the school newspaper The Brown and White, for a food column for the Office of International Affairs and for my baking blog Swell Sweets. This semester I’ve been writing in a different medium, photos and video.

As a class we created a blog called Revista Sacai where each student or pair of students has a chosen topic around which they post content. My friend Shannon and I share a passion for food, particularly healthy food. Shannon has a gluten-free diet and I happened to be gluten-free the month before I came to Spain as a challenge for myself and to see if it would change how I felt. Coming to Spain I knew it would be impossible to stay gluten-free since a main component of the cuisine is bread. As our topic for our section of the blog, we chose to explore eating healthy in Seville. Through our projects we’ve focused on vegan eating most because many vegan restaurants and markets are very conscious of the nutritious content of foods. Shannon was vegan earlier in her life as well, but I think being vegan would be too difficult for me since I love yogurt and chai lattes so much.

Our section of the blog is called Seville Saludable, meaning healthy Seville. Before we chose the topic for our class, Shannon and I found a website that shows the vegan and vegetarian restaurants and markets in Seville; it’s called happycow.com. On a map we scouted out where all of the restaurants and markets are since it’s our goal to visit all of them before we leave. There are twelve total, so it wasn’t an impossible goal to set.

As our first project we went to a Sunday market called Mercado de la Plaza de la Alameda, which is essentially the same thing as a farmer’s market but is more focused on being organic. From the visit we made a photo montage showing the fresh fruit and veggies, nuts, wines and beers and many other organic products.

When we visited a vegan market called Red Verde, the owner of the shop was very sincere and said that she would gladly do an interview with us for our project. The purpose of this project was to share what veganism is, what inspires people to be vegan and how veganism is present in Seville. The owner, Conchi, shared her voice about veganism and her deep passion for eliminating harm to animals in all ways possible, especially through her culinary choices. Additionally Shannon, my mom and I went to an event that Red Verde sponsored in which organic wines and vegan cheeses were tasted. Since I am not vegan but believe in many of the things that vegans believe in, it was inspiring to hear Conchi talk passionately about what motivated her to open the market and spread veganism to others.

While we were at Red Verde one day finishing up some interview questions and photographing, Conchi had samples of torrijas sitting on the counter since it was the week before Semana Santa. Torrijas are one of the classic sweets eaten during Semana Santa; they are a Spanish version of French toast coated in honey and cinnamon sugar. However, these torrijas were vegan meaning they didn’t have any egg, milk or honey in them. Those three ingredients are usually what make up the meat of torrijas so it was amazing that the torrijas were so decadent and indulgent despite them missing the principal parts. That inspired Shannon and I to make our own, especially since we both missed cooking and baking.

Cooking torrijas was an interesting experience because we were using Loli’s kitchen and supplies and we had never cooked in Spain before. Lighting the burners for example required using a lighter and putting your hand right next to where the gas came out. After several attempts I had Loli do it, instead of filling the house with gas. In addition Shannon and I had never deep-fried something the way that the Spaniards deep-fry. Therefore we added a generous amount of oil to the pan, to which Loli added two-inches-deep more of oil. Now this is what I’m calling healthy! Through the various steps we finally figured out how to make the torrijas come out well since we couldn’t soak the bread in the milk or in the batter too long, otherwise it would become too soggy and break. The best way to describe it was that there were too many cooks in the kitchen. Taking over someone else’s territory – in this case Shannon and I taking over Loli’s kitchen – caused disruption and the necessity for her to intervene. Consequently spoons with batter fell on the ground, oil spattered from the pan onto my skin and final products sometimes burned. As with many things in Spain, I’ve learned from the experience.

After we made torrijas, we made a lighter sweet called fresas con leche de soja, meaning strawberries with soy milk. Cutting strawberries and letting them absorb the flavor of the soy milk caused less chaos than the torrijas. They were deliciously refreshing. From our cooking adventure we made videos that instruct how to make the sweets.

For our final project we are combining all the photos that we’ve taken at the restaurants to illustrate the many vegan and healthy options for eating in Seville. Several restaurants that we’ve loved so far are La Habanita, Gaia, La Ilustre Victima and the bakery Veganitessen.

While food always lures people in, the other topics on Revista Sacai such as Andaluz featuring pictures from around the Andalusian region, De tapeo featuring the culture of tapas and Al aire libre featuring sights out and about in Seville can all be seen at revistasacai.wordpress.com.

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Eating Up the Basque Region

After a weekend in Portugal soaking up the sunshine, my friend Sarah and I were ready for the same thing in Bilbao and San Sebastian. In the most northern part of Spain sit Bilbao and San Sebastian. Over the past couple of months I have explored various cities in Spain including Barcelona, Granada and Grazalema, but never had I been to northern Spain. Only one thing didn’t come true that we had hoped – the weather forecast. Instead of warm sunshine, chilly rain was predicted. Nonetheless we were excited to explore a new region of Spain.

Sarah and I flew into Santander, a coastal city only an hour from Bilbao. We spent the night there and then left in the morning for Bilbao. Upon arriving in Bilbao we checked into our hostel, Ganbara Hostel, where we shared a 6-person co-ed room. As we searched for a good lunch spot, the streets were filled with people wearing green and white since there was a major futbol, or soccer, game that afternoon. Whereas most of Spain has the culinary culture of tapas, Bilbao had pinchos which are basically the same thing but go by a different name. I ordered brocheta de gambas, which was a spiced shrimp skewer filled with flavor, and chorizos, which were tiny sweet sausages. Despite tapas and pinchos being small dishes, their savory flavors satisfy me quickly.

                     

One of Bilbao’s most well-known museums is the Guggenheim. Frank Gehry designed the building which features titanium curves and intermingling pieces. The structure is said to represent the sea-faring culture of Bilbao with the titanium squares representing fish scales and the curves representing the ships that used to dock in Bilbao. The museum features out-of-the-ordinary art including large metal structures that invite you to interact and interpret them, photography from creative perspectives and LED displays. The architectural wonder of the museum itself is what attracts most art-seekers to visit the Guggenheim, who are then pleasantly surprised by the pieces that the museum boasts.

The rest of our day we explored the neighborhood of Casco Viejo which was where our hostel was located and then relaxed. By dinner time we still hadn’t met our roommates but there were four other bags sitting atop the beds. Sharing a room with strangers can either turn out wonderfully or miserably. That night we were woken by four drunken guys who spoke Portuguese and had clearly celebrated their team’s victory. In my effort to not wake up completely, I could smell the beer stench filling the room. They tried to keep their voices low but because they were drunk, their perception of volume was impeded. Instead of whispering song lyrics to each other, they were singing for all to hear.

The next morning Sarah and I went to the Mercado de la Ribera which is one of the biggest covered markets in Europe. Other markets that I’ve been to in the past have always included fish, meat, vegetables and fruit. This market was known primarily for its fish and meat. Then since we were in a new culture different from the rest of Spain, we visited the Basque museum to learn about the sea-faring, artisan history of the Basque people.

Onto another bus headed for San Sebastian, we passed through gorgeous mountains with glimpses of the beach along our way. In San Sebastian we checked into our third and final hostel of the trip, Olga’s Place. Among all the hostels I’ve stayed in during my travels over the past several months, Olga’s Place had the most comforting, welcoming hostel culture by far. A guy from Florida named Sean helped acquaint us with the hostel, surrounding area and some hot spots. Per Sean’s recommendation, Sarah and I went to a restaurant to order some pintxos. Although Bilbao had a different culture than Sevilla, upon our arrival in San Sebastian we were now officially in the land of the Basque. A majority of the people spoke English or Spanish but some menus were in Basque and required some guessing. I ordered shrimp wrapped in bacon and mushroom risotto. San Sebastian is known as the culinary capital of Spain. If you are a food fanatic and go to Spain, San Sebastian should be at the top of the list. Food is actually the reason that Sean moved to San Sebastian; he is an aspiring chef and is now traveling around Europe to learn about the culinary techniques of various regions.

               

That afternoon we walked around all of old town and new town. La Concha, the most well-known beach in San Sebastian where it’s hard to find a spot to place your towel during the summer, was abandoned amidst the rain and chilly temperature. The beautiful architecture and stunning landscape satisfied Sarah and me, despite not being able to absorb some rays.

In hostel culture we went for pintxos with Sean, Matt from Australia, Caroline from Canada, another girl from Canada and a guy from the U.S. who were all staying at our hostel. As we walked into old town, the rain fell hard and the wind blew umbrellas upside down, causing me to submit to the winds by putting my umbrella down resulting in a soaked head of hair and a soaked jacket. We stood outside as we shared drinks and pintxos. I selected goat cheese stuffed with vegetables and duck with apricot sauce as ones that I wanted to try. Sean ordered some of the more obscure things for us to try. Since I shared my passion for food with him, he convinced me to try dishes that I never would have put in my mouth including pig’s feet and cod’s cheek among the more usual veal and octopus. The culinary adventure and company of new friends was a great end to the day.

The next morning Sarah and I had the classic Spanish tortilla of eggs and potatoes for breakfast at a little café that Sean recommended to us. On a rainy day what’s better to do than explore the town by popping into stores and shopping? That is exactly how we spent our final hours in San Sebastian. Back on a plane to Seville, a pleasant feeling of not being exhausted after traveling came over me. The “weekend” or Wednesday to Saturday in this case was the perfect combination of exploration cuisine-wise and geographically.

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A Glimpse into Sevillano Lives

While I’ve been in Seville, I’ve done my best to integrate myself into the lifestyle of the sevillanos. Meeting sevillano students and maintaining a relationship with them is harder than it sounds. Nonetheless I’ve found other outlets to interact with sevillanos and get a glimpse into the diversity of Seville.

Every week on Wednesdays I tutor a nine-year-old boy named Daniel. He goes to a private school and must wear a uniform every day. He lives with his mom, dad and younger brother Gonzalo in an apartment in Nervion. I remember one of the first times I went to the apartment, I was pleasantly greeted by a heated environment, contrary to the cold that occupied my room. At school he learns math, science and literature in English as well as taking other classes in Spanish and a Castellan language class. When I first met with his parents, they told me that the biggest difficulty for Daniel with English was pronunciation. Therefore I aimed to help him with his pronunciation and listening when we worked on prepositions, vocabulary, numbers and the alphabet. He is very obedient but at times he knows that he can get away with things in his house so he won’t hesitate to disagree with his parents or me. Often times he has worksheets to do as homework so whatever the topic of the worksheet is dictates what we work on for the rest of the time. For example, if the week’s topic is using the words “can” and “can’t,” Daniel would draw pictures and then write a sentence about the picture using “can” and “can’t.” I have always loved working with kids because they have so much energy. Daniel’s favorite game is called 21. As we toss a stuffed soccer ball back and forth, we count up to 21, picking between saying one number or two numbers. Whoever says 21 loses; then the game starts over again. Almost every Wednesday I count to 21 for half an hour. Tutoring Daniel also gives me a view into family life of those with younger kids. Loli’s grandchildren come over but interactions between grandparents and grandchildren are very different from those between parents and children. Also I’m exposed to a different economic class as Daniel’s family pertains to middle or upper class.

Since cooking is one of my passions and I haven’t had many opportunities to do so in Seville, I decided to take a cooking class. Sarah and Brooke joined me for the class called guiso de abuela, meaning “grandma’s stew.” A woman named Maria who appeared to be about 27 years old taught the class. After growing up in Seville, Maria studied at a culinary school in Madrid and then returned to Seville after completing her education. Like many young adult sevillanos, she lives with her parents and works as a cooking instructor and a hotel receptionist. On the other hand her boyfriend has his own apartment which she said is a nice change to most sevillano guys because he has independence and self motivation. Maria taught us how to make a meloso rice with seafood and vegetables. Many rice dishes are made in the same process as I later learned when I made paella with Loli. In case you’d like to try making a Spanish rice dish, here’s the recipe…

Ingredients:
– 4 measures of rice
– prawns, peeled
– cuttlefish, cut into slices
– 2 garlic cloves, chopped
– 200 g crushed tomatoes
– 1/2 onion, chopped
– 1 green pepper, chopped
– 1/2 red pepper, chopped
– 12 measures fish stock
– 100 g white wine
– 4 tbsp olive oil
– 2 tbsp butter
– 2 fibers saffron
– 1 tsp sweet paprika
– salt and fresh black pepper, to taste

Steps:
1. In a saucepan heat the olive oil and lightly fry the cuttlefish until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
2. Add the butter to the saucepan and saute the onion, until soft and translucent.
3. Add the peppers and garlic and cook for 10 minutes.
4. Add the wine and turn up the heat. Harsh alcohol flavors will evaporate.
5. Once you can’t smell the alcohol anymore, stir in the crushed tomatoes and cuttlefish. Fry over medium heat.
6. Turn off the heat to add the sweet paprika, stirring well.
7. Stir in 4 measures of fish stock and cook over medium-high heat to boil.
8. Stir in the rice and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Then pour in 3 measures of fish stock.
9. Cook until all the stock has been absorbed and the rice is tender. Add stock when necessary. Cook for approximately 15 to 20 minutes.
10. Five minutes before serving, add the prawns and cook well.
11. Sprinkle freshly chopped parsley over the rice and serve immediately.

                        

Two days later I cooked paella with Loli, something I had wanted to do ever since arriving in Spain. Paella is one of Spain’s signature dishes and therefore learning how to make paella was a must. Several weeks earlier my friend Shannon and I made torrijas in Loli’s kitchen with her permission as part of a class project and as a cultural experience. Torrijas are a Spanish version of French toast, consisting of fried bread soaked in honey and drizzled with cinnamon sugar. The most appropriate way to describe cooking torrijas was that there were three chefs in a very small kitchen. Nonetheless it was fun to try making a very Spanish dish which involved deep frying, a manner of cooking that I’m not accustomed to.

After that experience I decided it would be a better idea if I let Loli teach me how to cook Spanish foods so that she could maintain the kitchen as her space. As we cooked paella Loli showed me the various steps of chopping vegetables, preparing the seafood to be cooked, and staying patient while the ingredients absorbed the flavors of each other. The final product of paella was gorgeous and absolutely delicious. I can’t wait to take a stab at making it on my own for friends and family in the States.

                     

Through tutoring and cooking I’ve gotten a glimpse into the diverse lifestyles of sevillanos. Tutoring Daniel exposed me to young life and the approach toward academics in private schools. Maria shared her life path with me which was very intriguing especially since I’m so interested in the culinary world. Living with Loli has been a great experience in general but I’ve loved hearing her talk about Spanish food and teach me about one of her passions.

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You’re Only in Portugal Once

Hopping on another bus for a fun weekend adventure, I had Portugal as my destination this time. Since Portugal is so close to Spain and basically the west coast of Spain, I assumed that it would hold many similar characteristics despite it being a completely different country. However because it is a different country, that means that we crossed a border although there were no signs of us doing so. No immigration to pass through, no customs. Just our bus driving across a bridge and then an immediate language change from Spanish to Portuguese.

Before going to our hotel, our tour guides from Discover Seville introduced us to the beauty of Portugal by stopping at Ponta da Piedeade where breathtaking cliffs awaited us. From the lookout point we could see the caves that we would explore the next day by boat. Today we explored everything from land and tomorrow by sea.

Our hotel sat on the coast with a small cove beach within twenty steps of our door – what more could you ask for! Naturally we were lured by the sunshine after previously having weeks of rain. Sarah and I enjoyed our lunches on the beach, picnic-style. Being at the beach always brings a feeling of relaxation and the ability to just leave everything behind, whether it be thinking about the three papers that I have to write in the next three weeks along with final exams or the many other things running through my head. Just let the sun and the sound of waves take all of those worries away for the time being.

That night we went into the small town of Lagos for dinner at a restaurant called NahNahBah, known for their large burgers and food with American roots. I ordered the NahNah bird which was chicken in a white wine sauce with potatoes and a side salad.

The next morning we were spoiled with a free breakfast that included eggs and fresh oranges instead of the typical bread and cereal. After a hearty breakfast we adventured out on a sangria boat cruise. The previous day we explored the beautiful ocean from the coast and the next day we explored it by sea. From the main boat that held 25 people, a small speedboat took nine people on an excursion through the grottos, or caves, of the southern coast. Each cave is named as a different room in a house such as living room, bedroom and bathroom. Being out in the ocean whether it be on a small speedboat or on a large yacht brings a sense of freedom and union with nature and the environment.

Saturday was a day made for absorbing the Portuguese sunshine. After the boat cruise we visited a larger classic beach near the marina, called Meia Praia, praia meaning “beach.” With good company and in desperate need of a tan, the day slipped away in the best way possible. After a day at the beach we visited Cabo Sao Vicente, also known as the End of the World. It’s known as the End of the World because of the steep cliffs that lead straight down into the ocean. Wandering down the slants of the cliff, we staked out our spot from which we watched the sunset. The natural beauty of Portugal was remarkable with the rough cliffs and the serene sea.

That night for dinner my friends and I decided that since we’re in Portugal, we have to try Portuguese food. Per the recommendation of our tour guide, we stopped at a restaurant called Jotta 13. The menu was very basic with options for grilled meat and grilled fish of many different varieties. All of them came with potatoes and a small salad. After ordering I was looking around, taking in the environment when I saw a cockroach crawling on the ground behind Sarah’s chair. Considering we were in a restaurant, my mouth dropped open despite not wanting to make a scene. Sarah immediately noticed and looked behind her chair to see the cockroach as well. Shannon pulled her feet off the floor onto her seat. When I notified our waiter that there was a cockroach, he acted calm and cool, almost as if this was a normal occurrence. My stomach turned and I had no desire to finish my soup. After seeing another cockroach on the ground, I was ready to leave the restaurant without paying, but I knew that would be rude and disrespectful. One of the cockroaches was squished but the other could still be wandering the floors. Much to my surprise we finished our meal and left the restaurant, unsatisfied with our meal and experience. Sometimes when you decide to try something new, you are shocked either pleasantly or unpleasantly with what you’re given. Take it with stride and march on!

In the little town of Lagos my friends and I wandered in and out of beachy tourist shops and observed the culture of the locals. While inside a store I heard bells and hollering from the streets. A bike parade of men and women dressed in a wide range of dress including Sunday niceties to average weekday wear rode by on bikes whistling, hollering and ringing their bells. Once they passed through the town returned to its laid-back nature of a slow humdrum beach town. That afternoon we discovered a delicious healthy food restaurant called Cafe Fresco as well as a heladeria specializing in selected alcoholic ice creams. After a couple hours of sunshine, we were back on the bus headed to Seville.

Portugal was an amazing experience, one of my favorite weekend getaways by far. The activities and the company made it unforgettable. One thing I learned is to take everything you experience and accept it for what it is, whether it’s a different religion, a new food or a restaurant with cockroaches as its customers.

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I´m on a Camel

So far a majority of the traveling that I’ve done on weekends has been within Spain, with the exception of Paris. As my second out-of-the-country trip, Morocco welcomed me with its rich culture, architecture and cuisine. I traveled with two of my friends – Sarah and Brooke – through a traveling organization called We Love Spain.

Before I jump into the adventures I experienced and cultural wonders that amazed me, it’s important to give a little background on certain elements of Morocco. The official language is Arabic although many people speak both Arabic and French. Less than one hundred years ago, northern Morocco was Spanish territory and southern Morocco was French territory. As my tour guide explained, written Arabic is the same among all countries that have Arabic as the common language, but with spoken language there are different dialects that make each country unique. Therefore people from Morocco would not be able to communicate with people from Saudi Arabia if they both spoke their local dialects; in that instance they would both speak the common Arabic language. Because there are so many travelers from Spain, people working in the tourist sector – a man selling leather goods on the side of the street, a waiter in a restaurant, a hotel receptionist – speak Spanish as well, or at least enough to get by. While in Morocco, I learned a couple of Arabic phrases.  سلام or “Salam” means “hello”; شكرا or “shukran” means “thank you”; and وخّا or “waha” means “okay.”

A huge part of the Moroccan culture and history is engrained in the religion. About 98 percent of the population is Muslim and about two percent Jewish. The Islamic religion is based on The Five Pillars of Islam, the belief that “there is no God but God, and Mohammed is his Prophet,” praying five times per day and fasting during Ramadan. Many women wear headdresses although it is not a requirement of the religion. Although Muslim is the dominant religion, the Moroccans are very tolerant of all religions.

After our ferry ride from Algeciras in the south of Spain to Ceuta in the north of Morocco, I was thrilled to be in Morocco. Little did I know that we weren’t actually in Morocco yet. Ceuta is Spanish territory but within an hour we would be across the border. Our tour guide that we met in Ceuta took our passports in a plastic bag and went to get them stamped and approved for crossing through. As we waited in the line of cars, people strolled alongside the bus to cross the border by foot. Many Moroccans travel across the border from Morocco to Ceuta 12 times per day because merchandise in Ceuta is tax-free and to avoid declaring their purchases, they must bring over small quantities at a time.

The next day we explored the city of Tetuan. During the late 15th century Tetuan was a Moorish settlement for exiles after the Christian Reconquest. Upon arriving we visited the modern city which is much like other urban cities. The real delight was in store when we entered the old city, also called the Medina. The Medina is a maze, a maze that if you enter by yourself never having been there you will get lost. Luckily we had our tour guide in addition to another guide, who also served as a security guard, to keep all 40 of us together. In the Moroccan culture sometimes women get sold for camels; that’s why I say he was part security guard as well.

Stands filled with fresh fruit, nuts, raw fish, pastries, shoes, clothing and so much more lined the streets that we wandered down. The succulent strawberries and wholesome walnuts still in their shells called out to me. Being sensitive to smells and appearances of raw fish and meat, I didn’t quite enjoy passing whole fish with their eyes still in that gave off an aroma that seemed to travel for miles or the chickens hanging by their feet with their necks slashed open. The cruelty of treating animals this way turns my stomach inside out, even though I know that when I stick that piece of grilled chicken in my mouth that is the exact thing I’m eating.

                     

As I wandered the streets, my attention was focused on absorbing all these rich sights, smells and flavors but also observing the interactions between the vendors and local Moroccans. Since Morocco is famous for its oils and teas, we stopped at a herb shop for a presentation about the speciality uses of Moroccan oil for hair, anti-stress and headache oil, lemon balm, spices for cooking, musk perfume and a variety of teas. With each oil and balm we were able to try a little bit and see the differences between their scents. Another presentation at a carpet market revealed the many intricate designs of carpets that the Moroccans make. It’s amazing that all of them are made by hand with so much detail and precision. The men at the market tried to sell the rugs to us but only a few ended up buying them because the prices were outrageously high. Part of the shopping culture in Morocco is bargaining. Almost never are the shop vendors going to expect you to pay the price that they tell you something is without bargaining.

              

For lunch we were treated to a four-course meal. Light vegetable soup warmed us up after wandering through the chilly streets. A refreshing cold salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, steamed carrots, potatoes and rice in a light lemony sauce provided us with nutrients. Following the starters, couscous with vegetables and meat was brought to our table in a dish with a cone top, which once removed revealed a huge steaming platter of the classic Moroccan food. For dessert we had cookies with sesame seeds on top, which were more like biscuits that cookies since they lacked a sweet factor. To fill that dearth of sweetness, we drank Moroccan whiskey, which is green tea with mint and tons of sugar. It is literally an addiction and the perfect way to end a meal.

             

Leaving the Medina, we walked the same streets that we strolled to get deep into the maze, although I had no idea at the time. Not until we exited the Medina did I remember that the modern city existed. The Medina is its own world, its own city within a city. Every city has an animal that is found wandering stray on the roads, whether it’s chickens, cats or dogs. In the Medina every couple seconds I passed a cat on the street.

After two hours in the bus, we arrived at the Grotte D´Hercules, or the Caves of Hercules. A local man led us through the caves to a beautiful lookout point to the ocean. When a picture is taken at the lookout spot and then flipped backwards, the hole between the rocks where the ocean is forms the shape of Africa. Our guide showed us rocks in the caves that represented different cities and their relation to each other. On one side was the Atlantic Ocean and on the other was the Mediterranean Sea, marked by wave-like indentations into the rock. Between them was Spain and Tangier. The creativity of our guide or whoever came up with this analogy amazed me. Similar to finding formations in stalactites and stalagmites in caves, mapping out Africa and Spain  with the rocks gives them greater importance as well as a vivid picture of the geographical location. Then we took a short stop at the point where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea.

What we had all been waiting for had finally come: riding a camel. We looked forward to it for different reasons – Brooke because it’s her school’s mascot, others because they just wanted a picture and to be able to say they did it, and I because it’s something that I may never have the opportunity to do again. Before mounting the camel, I was a little nervous I would be thrown off of it because they are such big animals and I had no idea if they were trained properly to give rides. The camels start in a sitting position when you get on them and then stand up when commanded by the men in charge of them. The most frightening part was when the camel stood up at the beginning and sat back down at the end. Because they are so tall, they have to go down in progressive steps and most of the time it’s not a very smooth or comfortable process. During the short ride, it felt much like riding a horse. My camel was being directed by a young boy about 10 years old while the ones in front of me were tied together in a line. Ride a camel in Africa – check!

Hidden among the Rif Mountains, Chefchaouen awaited us Sunday. Chefchaouen is a blue town, named for its periwinkle blue buildings. Against the backdrop of the mountains, the contrasting color of the town is absolutely stunning. We met a local man who told us his name was Habbibi, meaning “my love” in Arabic. He guided us through the small mountainous town, showing us the fountain from which to get drinking water, the bathhouse that women visit in the morning and men in the afternoon, a local tapestry workshop and finally arriving at the main market. After doing the typical tourist shopping I had three and a half Durham left, equating to about 30 centavos or 50 cents. I didn’t want to keep it so when Sarah bought some bread from a vendor on the street who was also selling candied nuts, I asked him how much I could buy with my three and a half Durham. He asked me what I wanted and I told him whatever, everything! Throwing myself completely into the culture and buying something that the locals were lining up to buy even though I had no idea what it was made me feel like I delved deeper into the culture. Sometimes you just have to step outside your normal boundary and try something new, even if you have no idea what it will hold in store for you.

After another delicious Moroccan meal of salad, moist wheat bread, beef with vegetables and a fruit salad, we were back in the bus for the end to our culturally enriching visit to Morocco. Shukran Morocco, perhaps we will meet again in the future.

 

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The Rain of Barcelona and the Sun of Mallorca

After showing off Seville my mom and I continued to Barcelona, a city that we visited three years ago but knew would hold new things for us. Given that it was Semana Santa, one of the busiest weeks for traveling to and from Seville, we arrived at the airport two hours early. At European airports you find out the desk at which you check in by looking at a screen displaying the flight numbers, destinations and desk numbers. Next to our flight the desk number was displayed but when we approached the desk it read “cerrada,” or closed, above the desk. I assumed it was just because we were there so early but per my mom’s recommendations, we went to the Iberia customer service desk to ask about our flight. Much to our surprise, the customer service agent told us that our flight was delayed from 6:30 to 10 p.m. because there was a strike in Paris, where our plane was coming from. Instead we had the option of switching to a flight leaving at 7:20 p.m. which would definitely be leaving on time. Immediately we jumped on the opportunity but the customer service agent said she wouldn’t know if our original flight was delayed or if there were spots available on the other flight until a little later. Thirty minutes later we checked in again; no word yet. Thirty more minutes and a muffin later, we had seats secured on the 7:20 p.m. flight. Our bags were checked and we were good to go.

Once through security, we took our time exploring the small Seville airport. While inside a shop, we heard an announcement for a flight to Barcelona. Immediately my mom and I exchanged confused glances and began speed walking to gate 5, the gate announced which was different than our gate for our 7:20 p.m. flight. Since the announcement was final call, no one was near the gate. I asked about getting on the flight, which in reality was the 6:30 p.m. flight that we were on before and were told that would definitely be leaving at 10 p.m., but since we checked baggage, we weren’t able to get on the flight. Although a little frustrated by the fact that we actually could have gotten to Barcelona earlier, we didn’t have anything that we needed to be in Barcelona for that night so we just went with the flow.

Barcelona held rain and wind for us. Nonetheless our first day there we battled the rain. After waiting in line for 45 minutes, we entered La Sagrada Familia. Since it is a work in progress, the structure was completely different than when we visited it three years earlier. The area where the altar and pews were situated – the most central section to a church – was under construction the last time we visited. The church’s elements represent the past and the present.

Despite it being rainy, my mom and I took pleasure in enjoying the wonderful tastes that Barcelona offered. The healthy foods that I was accustomed to in the States were reintroduced to me, including green salads, grilled meats, vegetables without olive oil.

That night we bought rain boots so we would be well-equipped to explore Barcelona the next day and rain wouldn´t stand in our way. Parc Guell, which is one of the many architectural wonders that Gaudi created, awed us with the intricate lizard and winding bench as focal points to the park. Also Montjuic is a large area to the west of Las Ramblas and close to the coast. It consists of many gorgeous gardens, museums and Poble Espanyol which was our destination. Poble Espanyol was originally built in 1929 for the International Exhibition. When inside Poble Espanyol you feel as if you’re in a completely distinct town from Barcelona. Shops, restaurants and cafes make up the town and give it a unique character.

Upon arriving in Mallorca, we got our Hertz rental car easily but found out that we didn’t have Hertz Neverlost with our car. Number one: driving in a new country where the signs mean different things and are in a language that the driver doesn’t understand. Number two: having no idea where we’re going. While my mom and I were both a little nervous as to whether we were going to find our hotel, I quickly downloaded a Google Maps application to my phone so technology saved the day. After missing the most direct route to get to the hotel, we enjoyed a short drive through a neighboring town called Palmanova. At our hotel we had an ocean view rooms and were both very ready to soak up some sunshine after the past four or five days of rain. Despite it being sunny with few clouds scattering the sky, the wind and cool temperature didn’t welcome us out onto the lounge chairs.

Instead we took the day to explore a mountainous village called Valldemossa. Only a thirty-minute drive from our hotel in Punta Negra, Valldemossa is an adorable village high in the mountains with cute cafes and shops lining the cobblestone roads where only pedestrians roam. The Real Cartuja, a monastery from 1399, is one of the most prized monuments of Valldemossa. Composer and pianist Chopin and writer George Sand stayed at the Real Cartuja back in 1838. Holding historic importance and immense ancient beauty, the monastery provided a new perspective into the ways in which certain people lived in the past – they were confined to a small cell and could not leave their rooms for meals but rather were given food through a small passageway. From the monastery were gorgeous views of the surrounding Serra de Tratamuntara, the mountain range that Valldemossa sits within.

The next day we woke up to a delicious buffet breakfast with eggs, chocolate croissants, yogurt, fruit and anything else you could ever dream of for breakfast. This little taste of America and having such a great selection of foods to choose from made me excited to return to my normal American routine once I go back. Despite missing certain foods from America, I am sure to miss the rich flavors and laid-back lifestyle of Spain upon my return to the States. Mallorca is a very small island; you can drive across it in merely an hour and a half. Therefore we hopped in our tiny European rental car and explored the towns of Pollenca and Alcudia. These two towns were very contrasting. Pollenca is a small inland town with few restaurants and shops, mainly homes and apartments. Alcudia is a more touristy town on the coast with many restaurants, beachy tourist shops and apartments above the restaurants and shops. That afternoon we relaxed and soaked up the sun.

Easter Sunday we awoke to another delicious breakfast and then sought out to explore the main city on the island, Palma de Mallorca. Since it was a Sunday and a holiday, we expected that we wouldn’t be able to enter any of the main monuments including museums and the cathedral. When we drove into the heart of the city, we had no idea where to park. Before we knew it, a man (who looked like he could have been homeless) directed us to park next to other cars in a parking lot outside a church but not in a designated parking spot. My mom and I were both very hesitant about leaving our car where it was and not getting towed because it seemed too good to be true that we found a parking spot immediately when we entered a lot.

We left the car and stumbled upon a church from which many people were entering and exiting. After looking at the beauty of the church both inside and out, we heard band music and followed the crowd of people outside to a side street where a band stood regally, taking up the entire width of the street. A procession with Christ reawakened was carried out of the church, fitting since it was Resurrection Sunday. My mom and I continued, in search of the cathedral. As we followed the signs for the cathedral, we passed police men keeping order in the streets, people standing to the side of the street as if something was about to happen, and roadblocks preventing cars from entering the streets.

Before we knew it we were in the heart of another procession but this time it was even bigger since it was outside the cathedral. Similar to the previous one we saw, we expected that some procession was going to be carried out from the cathedral. Instead within a few minutes of us arriving and securing a spot in the crowd, five or six cars drove up the road that we previously blocked. Once stopped in front of the cathedral, men and women in suits and elegant dresses got out of the cars and entered the church. To my mom and I, they looked like average Joes dressed up for church on Easter Sunday, but we knew that they either had to be celebrities or important government people. By overhearing a conversation between locals who passed by, I found out that they were the royal family. From that experience I learned how much the people of Mallorca love and respect the royal family. A good comparison is that it is like the presidential family.

Traveling to Barcelona and Mallorca was a nice contrast for my spring break in Spain. Barcelona had fun restaurants and shopping areas in addition to artistic creations. Off in the Mediterranean Sea, Mallorca boasted little villages in the mountains, exciting cultural festivities and the much-sought-after spring sunshine. After a farewell with my mom in the airport security line, it’s back to school in Seville.

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Showing off Seville

This week is Semana Santa, meaning holy week. It is a week of celebrating the catholic religion as well as signaling a spring break for students. Instead of traveling to three or more different European countries as many of my friends are doing, I decided this would be the perfect time for people to come visit me and who better to visit than my mom!

On Friday after many hours of traveling from California, my mom was due to arrive at about 1 p.m. I could not wait and had actually lost sleep because I was so excited to see her. Friday morning I woke up to an email from her saying that her flight was delayed from Dallas to Madrid and therefore she might not make her flight from Madrid to Seville. Low and behold, at 11:34 a.m. I received a WhatsApp message from her saying that she had arrived in Spain. Her next flight departed at 12 p.m. and she still had customs and immigration totackle. After already traveling 20 hours and missing the third flight, my mom had two options: stay in a hotel overnight and fly out the next morning or take a train. Running to and fro in the Madrid airport trying to find her luggage, buying a train ticket, having her phone battery die on her – some of the few things that my mom experienced within her first five hours in Spain. Nine hours after arriving in Madrid, she was receiving a big warm hug from me in Seville.

During Semana Santa the entire atmosphere of Seville changes. Avenida de la Constitucion is filled with seats for spectators to watch the processions. Therefore the pathway on which to walk is much narrower than usual. To embrace the true religious nature of Semana Santa, my mom and I went to misa, or mass, with Loli Sunday morning. I had never been to church with her before although I had been to mass on Ash Wednesday during which I didn’t understand a single thing. This time since I was with my mom, she explained some of the classical aspects of a mass that are universal no matter what country you’re in. She had the religious knowledge and experience of going to mass and I had the Spanish knowledge of being able to understand what they were saying (or technically I did, but the vocabulary that they used was so specific and they spoke at a rapid speed). In each church during Semana Santa the pasos that are carried during the processions are displayed before they are carried through the procession. Every hermandad, or brotherhood, has at least two pasos – one which displays Christ and the other which displays Virgin Mary. The ones in Loli’s church are only 80 years old because the church is quite new. However some of the churches in the center of Seville are centuries old. The Christ paso that I saw was made of wood but painted in gold. The Virgin Mary paso was made of silver. These pasos weigh around 600 kg, which is more than 1200 lbs, and about 30 people stand underneath the paso carrying it through the streets of Seville.

After misa we went to my homestay to have lunch with Loli. Even though my mom and Loli don’t share a language that they both speak, they could still understand what the other one said sometimes without me translating. The majority of the time I was translating what Loli was saying, which was a lot because she loves to talk. Sharing my homestay and my Spanish family life with my mom was a wonderful experience. It’s fun to talk to friends and family about my time here but it’s so much more meaningful to share my daily life in Seville with someone.

Coming back from dinner Sunday night, we knew that the processions had already started since in the middle of our dinner instrumental music played through the streets and diners fled outside to see what the commotion was about. Instead of following them we enjoyed our dinner because we expected when we returned to our hotel we might be able to get a glimpse of the processions. Not only did we get a glimpse, but we were right on the middle of the processions. At first I startedtaking us the back roads but what do you know? The processions happened to be following those same streets. Spectators lined the streets as men and women dressed in Ku Klux Klan-like apparel marched down the streets. To be quite honest (and not to offend the culture of Semana Santa at all), the people dressed up were a little creepy because they had white gowns and pointy hats with their faces covered and only their eyes peeking through. In attempts to get back to our hotel room, we ended up crossing through the procession, being stopped and redirected by a police officer, fighting through throngs of people and crossing underneath men carrying large wooden crosses slung over their shoulders. While it was not how we pictured getting home that night, it was definitely a cultural experience that I am thankful we had. We were able to see the processions, hear the music, observe the changes in atmosphere when the pasos stopped versus the cloaked men walking by and truly immerse ourselves in the religious festivities.

Another funny encounter I had was when my mom and I ordered dessert after dinner. We ordered figs with pistachio ice cream and with it came two shots of liqueur. I was hesitant to try it since I had no idea what it was and couldn’t decipher what it smelled like. My mom drank hers but still we couldn’t identify it. With my shot sitting on the table full, I asked our waiter what it was and he told me some words that I didn’t understand. After giving him a confused look, he disappeared behind the bar to bring out a bottle of liqueur. Since I was unable to understand the palabras, or words, that he told me, he decided it would be easier to show me. On the bottle it said liqueur de giundas, meaning cherry liqueur. I absolutely loved the willing nature of our waiter to help teach me what the Spanish words meant.

Showing off Seville to my mom reinforced my love for the city and all that it has to offer. At first when we were walking through the streets, I had my local lens on in which I have a destination in mind and don’t absorb my beautiful surroundings. Immediately my mom said, “You’re too much of a local and not walking slow enough to enjoy the beauty.” She was so right. Often times I just pass through this beautiful city without appreciating all that it has to offer. As my mom would say, stop and smell the roses! That’s my new motto for living and embracing the sevillano beauty for my next six weeks abroad.

 

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